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Justin Trudeau Photo by Rhonda Spivak


by Rhonda Spivak, February 27, 2015



Under the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper Canada voted at the UN against the unilateral Palestinian bid for statehood recognition along with Israel, the United States and six other countries. The UN General Assembly voted — 138 in favour to 9 against with 41 abstentions to accord Palestine non-Member Observer State status in the United Nations.



When Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau was in Winnipeg on February 12, the Winnipeg Jewish Review noted that this issue  may arise again in the UN, and asked Trudeau if  under his leadership Canada’s position would be the same. 




Trudeau answered (the complete answer is given):




"The Liberal party’s position is that unilateral actions are unhelpful towards the peace process. We need a two state solution arrived at through direct negotiations so we have a secure democratic Israel alongside a secure democratic Palestinian state. The only way to reach that is through direct negotiations.  Unilateral actions, on either side are unhelpful, whether it be unilateral declarations at the UN by Palestinians  or on the other side, continued settlements which are unilateral actions which are incredibly unhelpful as well.




"The fact is that on Israel specifically there is very little difference between the policies of the government of Canada under the Conservatives and the Liberal party. The positioning of non-abstention, of actually voting against at the UN, was started by Paul Martin and continued by Stephen Harper, and that is something that is assured.




"The only real difference between the Conservative position on Israel and the liberal positioning on Israel is one of tone. The Conservatives have in their support for Israel made it a divisive partisan issue. It’s not enough for them to say the Conservative party supports Israel. They have to say that the Conservative party supports Israel and the other guys don’t.




I find that when it comes to Middle East politics making partisan political advantage out of that doesn’t help Canada and certainly doesn’t help our effectiveness in the Middle East."




In a further exchange with the WJR , Trudeau confirmed again  in regard to a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood at the UN , that Canada under the Liberals would  be "continuing the positioning we’ve had" and said  “Unilateral declarations are unacceptable, are unhelpful."




Conservative MP for Winnipeg South Centre Joyce Bateman responded below to the comments of the Liberal Leader: 




“Our Government makes no apologies for standing shoulder to shoulder with Israel, the only liberal democratic state in the region. Several high profile Liberals have made it clear they don’t believe Israel has the right to defend itself from constant terrorist attacks by Hamas. The Liberals don’t support taking the fight directly to ISIL in Iraq. We support Israel’s right to defend itself and to live in peace with its neighbours. We believe negotiations provide the only viable path to lasting peace, and that progress is best made at the negotiating table.”





Four days after the Winnipeg Jewish Review posed the above question to Trudeau (which was at a meeting with various press outlets from ethnic communities that had been set up through MP Kevin Lameroux's office), the Canadian Press reported on February 16 that Canada has formally opposed Palestinian attempts to join 15 different United Nations treaties and conventions, including objecting to the Palestinians acceding to the Rome Statute that creates the International Criminal Court . The news report indicates Canada is making it clear to the UN that because it does not recognize "Palestine" as a state, it also does not recognize any treaty relations with it. The Palestinians have formally replied to Canada's objections indicating that  they won non-member observer status in November 2012 at the UN General Assembly. According to the Canadian press report, "The dispute has sparked the most scathing Palestinian criticism to date of the Harper government's unwavering support of Israel." The report also says New Democrat foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar took issue with the Harper government's position, saying that the Palestinians have earned the right to join UN treaties and conventions.






The Winnipeg Jewish Review sent a follow up email to the Liberal Leader Trudeau's press secretary Cameron Ahmad on Feb 24 evening asking whether Liberal Leader Trudeau agrees with the actions of the Harper government taken this month in formally objecting in writing to the Palestinian attempts to join different UN treaties and conventions   or does the Liberal party agree with the  position of the New Democrat foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar that the Palestinians have earned the right to join UN treaties and conventions by virtue of them receiving non-member observer status at the UN General Assembly?  Would a Trudeau led government continue to formally oppose Palestinian attempts to join different UN treaties and conventions in the future as the Harper government has done?  We asked for a response by Feb 25 or Feb 26 noon.




The Winnipeg Jewish Review has not received an answer. On Feb 26, the Winnipeg Jewish Review emailed MP Marc Garneau, foreign affairs critic for the Liberal Party asking for a response. Should we receive a response from MP Garneau we will , of course, update readers. [Update March 17, We never received a response]




Note that in addition to Canada objecting to the Palestinians acceding to the Rome Statute that creates the International Criminal Court, Canada has also objected to the Palestinians joining the Convention on Biodiversity, the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, the UN Law of the Sea, a convention against transnational organized crime, a protocol on biosafety and biological diversity, a convention on womens' rights and others.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.